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India to get a $100mn green boost

The Times of India:  October, 2012

Hyderabad: The Global Environment Facility (GEF), the largest funder of environmental projects worldwide, is all set to invest close to $30 million in India over the next few years. Speaking exclusively to TOI on the sidelines of the ongoing CoP-11, Gustavo AB da Fonseca, head (natural resources), GEF, said that this money would support five projects that are likely to take off in the country in the next three-to-six years. Apart from GEF assistance, these environment conservation projects will also receive financial backing from private organisations and bilateral agencies as well as from the Union government, which is going to add up to another $70 million. Excerpts from an interview:

Q: What are these projects, on which GEF is collaborating with India?

A: There are about five projects that we are looking at. All of them have been approved but are yet to be implemented. The first project is related to sustainable development of medicinal plants for which GEF will put in $5 million. Another $7 million will come from co-financing agencies. There is another coastal project along the Malvan Coast (Maharashtra where GEF will contribute $3.5 million with co-financing agencies adding $ 10 million. The third project is on biodiversity protection along the Western Ghats (GEF: $6.3 million, co-financing: $30 million). The fourth project relates to Island Conservation in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (GEF: $ 3.4million, co-financing: $6 million). The most important, of course, is the project that we are doing in collaboration with World Bank on biodiversity and rural livelihood improvement; GEF will be releasing $11 million for this while $35 million is expected to pour in by way of co-financing.

Q: How much has GEF already invested in India?

A: We have worked closely with India, especially on climate change. The GEF alone has put in $307 million in the country so far to support its various projects related to climate change. In the area of biodiversity, too, our organisation has worked closely with the Indian government. Our investments till date add up to $76 million with an additional co-financing of $200 million. In fact, I can safely say that India is one of the top 10 recipients of GEF funds in the world. And most of our projects here have been successful. GEF supports about 155 countries across the globe.

Q: Speaking of the larger picture, what is the total budget that CBD is looking at to meet its Aichi Targets?

A: GEF does produce any assessments. But there have been few independent assessments that have been done by various groups. The one that has been compiled by CoP itself through an experts' committee (comprising individuals from among member countries) is a three-level assessment where the minimum amount has been pegged at $5 billion. At the second level it is $7 billion and at the highest it is $12 billion. There was also another high-level committee comprising experts from UK and India that came up with a figure of a few hundred billion dollars. But considering that in our last plan, the allotment to biodiversity was just about $1.2 billion, I don't know how much can be actually raised from donors.

Q: What do you hope to take back from CoP-11? Does GEF have any plans to increase its biodiversity budget (presently 30% of its total funds) in the future?

A: The convention has been negotiating and deliberating for over 20 years now as to how to conserve biodiversity. We hope that by the end of this meet there are some concrete plans of implementing these discussions. Speaking of increasing our budget on biodiversity, I must tell you that our actual investment in this area is at over 50%. That is because, apart from the 30%, about 20% more goes on biodiversity projects supported through our work on climate change, water conservation and sustainable land management.